Saturday, 16 June 2007

Spoilt generation

This is why the Financial Times should be a mandatory read in all schools.

In an editorial published on 6 June 2007, an imaginary "Junior" wrote a letter to his parents complaining about how difficult is to make our own way in this world.

Today, a tongue-in-cheek reader has replied to Junior with this brilliant response:

And another:

Bloody right.
We (age 20-35) have been spoilt like no other generation in history. Our parents gave us anything we asked them for. And now that some young people have to make their own way, they complain and sulk.
Stop moaning like a little brat.
Read the FT and The Economist often.
Work hard, try harder.

Wednesday, 6 June 2007

Fading nation

I have not posted about Catalan politics for a while. To be honest, it is disheartening.

To compound the misery, we had local and regional elections on Sunday 27 May.
There were local council elections for the whole of the Spanish state and regional parliament elections for a few “comunidades autonomas”, the official name of Spanish autonomous regions and their devolved parliaments.

There are hardly any positives to take from the elections. Some of the highlights are:

- Record low turnover in Catalonia, the lowest in Spain.
- Record blank votes in Catalonia, about 3%, compared to the Spanish average of about 1%.
- The status quo pretty much unchanged except that absolute majorities are becoming a scarce luxury for the mainstream political parties.

Then we have the really bad news from Valencia: the PP (Spanish nationalists – Conservatives) have increased their absolute majority in the Valencia region, País Valencià, or Comunitat Valenciana, the sterile official name for the country that comprises the provinces of Castelló, Valencia and Alacant. The Wikipedia has a decent article explaining the complexity of the naming of Valencia, here.

The results from Valencia have been a surprise and a big upset to many Valencian folk. Valencian people, whether by residency or by birth, have voted in massive numbers for the continuation of the PP government in the region. Many commentators have written this is akin to blacks voting for the KKK. But it is simpler than that.

After 40 years of Fascist dictatorship by Franco, the language and any sense of identity was already dying. To compound the problem, massive demographic changes and migration from other areas of Spain have diluted the native population to a level where the Valencian/Catalan language is all but an anecdote. Add to that a self-hating, staunchly pro-Spanish press and media and you get the picture: Valencia never stood a chance.

After about 30 years of Spanish democracy (and I use the term loosely), the native language of Valencia has all but disappeared. Spain has won the Battle of Valencia, and now the region is just like any other province of Spain, just like Toledo or Guadalajara, a Spanish-speaking territory and a population that has rejected the notion of being anything other than a Spanish province. Catalan language is deemed a folkloric annoyance, a distraction. Thus, in this historical and demographic context, the PP has increased its absolute majority in the regional Parliament. To keep the comparison going, there are few blacks left in Valencia.

One feels sorry for the handful of Valencians who still put up some kind of resistance to this cultural genocide. But their attempts are futile, like trying to stop a tsunami: no bloody chance mate. Hence why there are so many Valencians in high-profile positions in Barcelona: their language and culture is being obliterated in their native land so they emigrate north, where it is still alive.

Spain has a well thought out plan and will implement it. The objective is to eliminate Catalan language and culture in order to assimilate all Catalan speaking territories, the Catalan Countries, into a homogenised, unified, and, crucially, Spanish-speaking only Kingdom of Spain.

First it was the outlying counties of El Carxe (in the Region of Murcia) and the Franja, in Aragon. No legal recognition or even any kind of acknowledgment exists for Catalan language in these areas. Nothing whatsoever after 30 years of Spanish democracy.

The French have managed quite successfully in the Rosselló counties, Northern Catalonia. Spain hates Catalonia so much that even ceded Catalan territories to the French. Divide and Rule indeed.

Then it has been the Valencia region. Spreading from south to north, from Alicante to Castelló, Spanish has eroded Catalan usage over the last century to the point that Valencian has disappeared from Alicante and Elx, the main towns in the southern-most province. Then it has been the city of Valencia itself, where violent assaults against libraries who dare to sell books written in Valencia/Catalan continue to this day. Notice the Spanish press just ignores the issue completely. Next it will be in the Castelló province, south of Tarragona and the Ebro river.

In this fashion, slowly but surely, Catalan has been eliminated from the Valencia Country, and with it any sense of pride in the common bond that unites Valencians and Catalans. Valencian identity has been morphed into a folkloric pastiche, designed to fit into the Spanish nationhood without providing any challenge or any notion of self-confidence or self-belief, reneging of its own past and cultural roots. The process is almost complete and this latest electoral result will only accelerate its foregone conclusion. As the official Valencian anthem imposed after democracy, Valencians are meant to “ofrenar noves glories a Espanya” (“offer new glories to Spain”).

At a less advanced stage in this process of Spanish-ation, (and by implication de-Catalanisation) are the Balearic Islands. The language is still spoken in the towns and villages, although not much in Palma and the tourist hotspots. Being an island maybe has helped to prevent the cultural decline but where Valencia led, Mallorca and the other islands will surely follow. The PP may have lost their absolute majority in the regional government after the last elections but they are still the biggest party by far. They too will take a lead from their Valencian colleagues. Catalan will be made an irrelevant language and their local accents, beautiful and unique, will be lost, deemed another historical anecdote.

And then, the big prize: once the Spanish state has managed to completely assimilate Valencia and the Balearics, even more than they are now, it will be the turn of central Catalonia. The process is well underway. It is taking Spain about three centuries to finally kill off our culture and national identity but we just cannot cope anymore with the political, economical and cultural onslaught being inflicted upon us.
Three hundred years after this edict was issued by the victorious Spanish king after the Wars of Succession, the Catalan Countries are on their knees. Catalonia, understood as the present administrative region, may be still holding on, but it will not be for long.

The same social and cultural changes that have happened in Valencia and the Balearics will also lead to the end of Catalan nationhood in the old stronghold. To be honest, it is a miracle that we have survived for so long given the circumstances we have been in for the last three centuries.

ERC, the only mainstream party that wants to challenge and change the constitutional relationship between Spain and Catalonia has suffered losses at the last local elections, mainly in the metropolitan area of Barcelona, where the majority of the immigrant population from southern Spain reside. It is still the third biggest party across Catalonia and it has not been a total collapse but it has been a warning sign of the times ahead.

The only positives one can take from the election is the appearance of the CUP, a radical left, pro-independence party, even if they have arguably taken a share of the vote from the now mainstream ERC. While I have no time for pseudo-communists and their silly views on the economy and the world, at least this party has gained much more support than the pro-Spanish and anti-Catalan Ciudadanos, the darling of the pro-Spanish media. Or much better than the populist, quasi-xenophobic (muslims and blacks not, Spanish-speaking south Americans are ok though) Plataforma por Catalunya (PxC), a party led by a former member of Falange, the historical Spanish fascist party. Yet, the electoral success of the CUP is ignored and blanked out by the mainstream media while Ciudadanos, despite their electoral failure, are given plenty of airtime to air their lies, manipulations and anti-Catalan diatribes. This is the way the Spanish media fight their battle: permanent hostility or blank coverage towards pro-Catalan parties like ERC and CUP, but generous airtime to those who seek to undermine Catalan nationhood, like Ciudadanos and others. Concepts like fairness and proportional airtime to political parties are just unheard of.

They are winning, and stretching their lead. For the last few decades, if not centuries, Catalans have been too coward and too weak and it is only due to Spain’s incompetence that we have not been completely defeated long ago.

So here we are. Watching from afar how the homeland is fading out, how Catalonia follows the path of the Balearics, which follows the path of Valencia, which follows the path of La Franja. Catalonia was once a nation, and it still is for many of us, but I wonder for how long Catalonia will survive as a unique cultural identity until it becomes part of a Spain that is Una, Grande y Libre.

What the fascists wanted but failed to get, it is being achieved in this so-called democracy.

Saturday, 2 June 2007

Blogus interruptus: common sense is so scarce

Sadly, Ian has decided to discontinue his excellent blog. It is a pity for there are not many people with the ability to put a point of view across in such a concise and smart manner. I am often slightly jealous of Ian’s posts, thinking to myself: “I wish I had written that”.

Whatever the reasons, best of luck Ian.

Then, I notice that another top blogger, Curious Hamster, seems to have stopped posting too, but with no previous warning. It is slightly concerning. Not sure whether it is a voluntary or involuntary hiatus. Another loss for the blogosphere, for Curious Hamster’s blog was a pleasure to read. He always provided a different viewpoint and his posts contained informative links to check his quotes and references.

It is a pity that people with so much to say, and who talk so much sense, are so scarce.

Goodbye Lenin


News article from the BBC News website:

A Polish man has woken up from a 19-year coma to find the Communist party no longer in power and food no longer rationed, Polish TV reports.

Read the full story here:

Life imitates art. It is almost like the script of a German movie, Goodbye Lenin. In the movie, an East Germany woman (and a Socialist Unity Party of Germany member) who has been in coma for eight months, is never told about the demise of the country she was so proud. Her son keeps her in the dark about the fall of the Berlin Wall and the collapse of Communism...

What a story, Mrs Grzebski looked after her husband for 19 years, and now her determination and love has been rewarded. Extraordinary.